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Russia: Punk Rockers Jailed for Mock Prayer Performance

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Ilisha

A veiled protester holds up a sign which reads ‘свобоДЫ’ (Freedom) during a demonstration in support of the punk rock band ‘Pussy Riot,’ outside the Russian Embassy in Prague, on April 15, 2012.

What if a punk band was arrested for performing a “mock prayer” on the steps of a mosque in a Muslim country?

The loons would go wild, but this didn’t happen in a Muslim country, and it wasn’t a mosque. It happened in Russia, inside of an Orthodox Christian church. Months later, members of the band Pussy Riot are still in jail, charged with “hooliganism.”

What they did was pretty stupid and disrespectful but they should not be “denied bail” or face “seven years in jail.”

The Know-Nothing’s Guide to Pussy Riot, the Realest Punks Alive

by  Max Read

After enduring five months of delays and attracting worldwide attention, the Pussy Riot trial finally began in Moscow this week. But what is Pussy Riot? Why is it on trial? What is Moscow? All your questions will be answered here.

What is Pussy Riot?

Pussy Riot is a Russian punk collective founded in September of last year in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he would seek election for a third presidential term. (Putin, currently the prime minister, stepped down from the presidency in 2008 due to limits on serving consecutive terms; the current president, Dmitri Medvedev, is a Putin ally.)

“[A]t that point,” Pussy Riot’s Serafima (members use pseudonyms) told Vice in February, “we realized that this country needs a militant, punk-feminist, street band that will rip through Moscow’s streets and squares, mobilize public energy against the evil crooks of the Putinist junta and enrich the Russian cultural and political opposition[.]“

Okay, but… what do they do?

I mean, what have punks ever done? Mostly the women of Pussy Riot wear colorful clothes and balaclavas and stage Situationist-style guerrilla performances in public spaces like the Red Square. It was one such performance — a “punk prayer” called “Our Lady, chase Putin out,” undertaken in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral — that got three of the group’s members in so much trouble.

What happened?

On February 21, Five Pussy Rioteers took to the church’s altar and performed a mock prayer, begging the Virgin Mary to chase Putin out of power. They lasted about 30 seconds before being removed by security guards, and the footage was later used in a music video, which you can see here.

That’s it? [Rolls eyes.]

Well, where the U.S. has successfully neutralized the protest possibilities of punk rock through a careful combination of commodification and fashionable cynicism, Russia doesn’t [mess] around: two weeks after the prayer, three women in Pussy Riot — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — were arrested and charged with hooliganism, which can carry a sentence of up to seven years. They’ve been languishing in jail since then, denied bail and waiting through several delays; two of the women are mothers and haven’t seen their young kids since the arrest.

…. Their lawyers say they’ve been denied food and sleep; today, a doctor had to be called when Alekhina became sick in court. The prosecutor is making all kinds of nutty accusations, according to The New Yorker‘s Masha Lipman:

In an interview, one said that the incident could “soon escalate into events comparable to the explosion of the twin towers on September 11th in America… It was proven that the act had been committed not by the American government or by the C.I.A. but by forces above them. For instance, all the employees of the shopping center” — the lawyer referred to the W.T.C. as torgovy tsentr, the Russian for “mall” — had been informed through secret masonic channels that they should not report to work on September 11th.” When the interviewer asked, “Do you mean that the Pussy Riot act and the terrorist attack in the U.S. were organized by the same people?,” the lawyers responded, “In the first instance it was a satanic group, and in the second it was the global government. But at the highest level both are connected-by Satan.” Who else?


Yeah, the Orthodox Church is being unsurprisingly intense about this — the Orthodox Patriarch and other church leaders have roundly condemned them (“a sin that will be punished in this life and the next”) — and the government seems to be using the prosecution as a way to strengthen its alliance with the conservative church.

“Piety and faith for their own sake do not appear to be Putin’s concern, however,” Lipman writes. “Instead, the government is drawing on the traditionalist and anti-western attitudes of the Russian Orthodox Church as a way of cracking down on the regime’s liberal opponents.”

So what happens next?

The trial will last a couple of weeks. All three women have pleaded not guilty; at worst, they could be sentenced to seven years in prison…

Read the rest

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What if they were Muslim? Russians Convicted over Art Show

Posted on 14 July 2010 by Mooneye

We hear often that Muslims object too much to art or cartoons that are offensive to their religious sensibilities. In fact, Islamophobes love to highlight Islam as some unique motivator in passing laws that ban demeaning or offensive remarks or depictions about religion.

In Russia however, two artists have been convicted and fined by authorities for artwork that depicts Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse. Expect no complaints from Robert Spencer and company.(hat tip: Daniel R. Bartholomew)

Russians convicted and fined over Forbidden Art show

Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov had set up the Forbidden Art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow.

The show provoked condemnation from the Russian Orthodox Church, among others, for artworks that included a depiction of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse.

Both men were ordered to pay a fine.

The exhibition featured several images of Jesus Christ. In one painting of the crucifixion, the head of Jesus Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal.

There was also a spoof ad for Coca Cola with the slogan “This is my blood” that visitors looked at through peep holes.

Mr Yerofeyev, an art expert, and Mr Samodurov, the former director of the Sakharov Museum, said they organised the exhibition to fight censorship of art in Russia.

But prosecutors opened an investigation after an ultra-nationalist Orthodox group filed a complaint against the show.


The court fined Mr Samodurov 200,000 rubles (£4,300) and Mr Yerofeyev 150,000 rubles (£3,200).

The trial began in April 2009 and was fiercely criticised by rights activists and artists.

Last week, 13 renowned Russian artists published an open letter to President Dimitry Medvedev, asking him to stop the trial. They said a guilty verdict would be a sentence “for the whole of Russian contemporary art”.

Amnesty International issued a statement last week, saying a guilty verdict against the curators would “further undermine freedom of expression in Russia”.

In letter send to the Russian Orthodox Church last month, Mr Yerofeyev apologised if the show unintentionally offended Christians.


But the Council of the People, the group that brought the complaint, defended the legal action.

A representative of the organisation, Oleg Kassin, told the AFP news agency that he had been disgusted by the exhibition which contained “anti-Christian” images.

“If you like expressing yourself freely, do it at home, invite some close friends,” Mr Kassin said.

“But from the moment that such an exhibition takes place in a public space, and especially if it contains insults, it’s no longer art but a provocation,” he added.

Mr Samodurov has been convicted of inciting religious hatred before. He was fined in 2005 for an exhibition called Caution: Religion! at the Sakharov Museum.

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